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Call or Mail First? The Secret to Direct Marketing Communications.

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 @ 02:20 PM / by Chuck Lohre

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The only way to cut through the clutter of mass marketing communications is to personalize them.

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Dale Carnegie said, "The sweetest sound in the world is your own name." My Dad sent me this coconut years ago and it's made the cut ever since.

Google the headline and you'll find Michael Pedone's answer, "...I would call first, and if I got voicemail, I'd leave a message and then follow it up with the email..." I agree with Michael, but you can use a direct mail piece as well. And you will have to call, mail, call, mail for at least five if not a dozen times.

The results on LinkedIn are split 50/50. Ranging from the example where the lead has provided their phone number to less personal pitches when email works better. You're usually leaving a voice mail anyway if you call. No one mentioned actually mailing a piece of literature. But if you have properly targeted short list, know they have a need and the budget; investing the $10 in mailing something can be worth it.

Brandon Stamschror says, "...I always call the prospect before sending an email," and so did his eight comments. His blog was more focused on B2B marketing, which we're focusing on here. B2B products are marketed to highly targeted audiences.

Either way, you need the right message to cut through the clutter. Just today, I was interviewing an intern who had done telemarketing and she liked to start the conversation with the common, "Hello, may name is Maggie. How are you today?" This personalization helps break through the defenses. However, when I get calls from business that aren't relevant to my needs, I say, "I'm sorry, I can't take this call. I have to hang up," and then do just that. The campaign we're working on today is an energy efficiency product that has a three-year payback and then 17 years of 50% savings. Here's a list of possible leads:

  • Hello, I'm Tom with the Energy Savings Company. May I speak with the person that pays your utility bills? Sounds too much like to discounted gas and electric pitches we all are tired of.
  • Hello, my name is Susan with the Energy Efficiency Company. Who would I speak to about ways to save money?
  • Hello, my name is Chuck. May I speak with the owner?
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Of course it would be better if you knew whom to ask for. Then you would have to get through the gatekeeper. That's what Michael Pedone says in another blog he writes. It's easy to get individual names from Jigsaw SalesForce Data.com, and it's free, if you contribute to correcting the database.

Bill Good, has some good thoughts: "You have two choices today in how to approach your market.

  1. Mail/Phone—Send a letter and follow it with a phone call no more than 3-5 days later
  2. Phone/Mail/Phone—Call, offer a free report, mail or email it to people who are interested and qualified, call back in an attempt to set an appointment

Which style should you use? There are no hard-fast rules but one: test.

I'm afraid testing is the final answer. Another thing Bill brings up is trying to get an appointment on the first call, "That is almost always doomed. However, I did say 'almost.'"

Google, "Is direct mail dead?" Charles Gaudet reports, “One would think that if digital communication was so good then the online giants of the world, namely Google and Microsoft (for example), would rely solely on email and other digital communication, but they don’t,” says Gaudet. “In fact, they spend millions of dollars each year reaching out to customers and prospects using direct mail. Why? Because it works.”

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Here's a photo from our Facebook site posted last year. I guess you can't go wrong with snacks to get your message read. You'll notice the retargeted Adobe Creative Cloud ad, we were comparing Adobe versus Hubspot and I attended an Adobe webinar. Their Content Management and Customer Relationship Management system is perfect for major retailers but overkill for our clinets and us.

Wikipedia has this to say about Direct Mail:

"Direct mail marketing is under scrutiny by many of its former and current advocates. The arguments against using direct mail marketing include possible impact on the environment and changing attitudes among consumers. The common practice of address standardization can defeat the purpose of advertising mail by stripping away local identity, thus leaving many recipients alienated. It is also argued that direct mail is not cost efficient. It has been suggested that social media will eventually replace direct mail as the preferred method for marketing communications.

Those who believe direct mail marketing has a future cite its strong growth in 2011. It has been reported that large publishers like the Tribune Company and RR Donnelley have growing direct mail divisions. Nonprofit organizations continue to use direct mail at a subsidized USPS rate. The drama will continue to unfold with more answers coming in the first quarter of 2013."

And to get back to our headline, Wikipedia has this to say about Variable Data Printing:

"The difference between variable data printing and traditional printing is the personalization that is involved. Personalization allows a company to connect to its customers. Variable data printing is more than a variable name or address in a printed piece; in the past, a variable name would have been effective, because it was a new concept at the time. In today’s world, personalization has to reflect what the customer values. In order for VDP to be successful, the company must know something about the customer. For example, a customer who loves baseball receives a VDP postcard with an image of their favorite baseball player. The postcard is effective, because the customer is more likely to read what is on it. An example of an ineffective VDP piece would be to mail a postcard to the same customer with an image of a soccer player."

A discussion we had this morning with an international directory sales rep reinforced the importance today of doing research on the company and individual. It's so easy with LinkedIn, Jigsaw, and search engines. It's worth ten minutes to be prepared with something you have in common: going to a show, a hobby, kids, industry friends (you can check "related" in LinkedIn) and even the weather!

So personalization, either by voice, email or by mail will get your message read. And that's one of the five to twelve contacts you'll need to make to close the sale.

You might also enjoy reading our blog post on email development, "How to create a marketing communication email"

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Written by Chuck Lohre

Owner of Lohre & Associates Marketing Communications. The company celebrated their 80th Anniversary in 2015, his 38th.